dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

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What if this is exactly who we are?

January 15th, 2021 by dk
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“This is not who we are.” We’ve all heard that plenty of times in the past week. What if it’s not true? But if this is exactly who we are — then what?

We watched with horror when the Capitol was attacked last Wednesday. Nothing like this has happened to that building since the British tried (and failed) to burn the building down during the War of 1812.

Do you know what was happening at First Street SE during the Civil War? The iconic building was undergoing a major expansion throughout the war. Separate House and Senate Chambers were built. The dome that cuts its iconic profile was installed. Parts of the building were converted into a makeshift hospital for wounded troops, but construction never stopped.

Americans have never attacked “the People’s House” — quite the opposite. Thomas Crawford’s colossal Statue of Freedom was placed atop the finished dome on December 2, 1863, proclaiming to the world that America would soon again have its United States.

What the world saw last week was less hopeful, but not less dramatic. Cosplay fabulists ransacked the complex. A police officer was beaten with an American flag pole, as a sympathetic crowd chanted “USA! USA!” Pity the satirists who will try to exaggerate the scene for cartoonish effect.

We’re all having to learn a new cognitive-emotive trick. It’s difficult to stay shocked when you’re not really surprised. We’ve been told for months this was coming, but we refused to believe it could. And then it did — still shocking, but not surprising.

Egged on at a rally hosted by the President of these United States, thousands of protesters became insurrectionists in real time, on camera for all to see. They stormed the gates of the Capitol, determined to “stop the steal,” even if it meant assassinating public officials or taking hostages.

The putsch failed on January 6, 2021, but hostages were taken. We’re among them. Their demands are clear. They insist that their feverish paranoia must be excused and affirmed, in the name of unity. Republican leaders decry impeachment as “divisive.” That’s only true if they vote against it.

How can there not be swift and severe consequences for these treasonous acts? You cannot look away from what surrounds you.

Our most generous response may prove the most dangerous. Some argue only a sliver of Trump’s supporters favor a violent overthrow. Polling disagrees. One-third of Americans believe there should be no consequences. We’re being told to pity this fringe, because they truly believe the election was stolen. They have fallen for the propagandists’ “Big Lie.”

But what if the “Big Lie” is really the one that most of us believe — that we’re better than this? This mistaken belief invites passivity. It’s too easy to sit back and believe that things will not get worse. That we’ll somehow come together before it’s too late. That the States of America will become United again.

Where is the evidence of that? Our groupthink may have lulled us into a posture and mindset that won’t prepare us for what comes next.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Santa Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

January 14th, 2021 by dk
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Most holiday decorations have been taken down for the season, so I feel safe now in admitting it. This was my first Christmas not believing in Santa Claus. I understand that might need a little bit of explanation. Some personal history might help.

I was the last kid on my block to stop believing in flying reindeer, because my father was a photographer. He had attended a Christmas party at our neighbors’ house across the street. He had seen Santa’s sleigh with his own eyes.

More importantly, he had taken a photograph as Santa flew by. My eight-year-old eyes widened as he showed me the evidence. That was definitely a sleigh piercing the sky. A person was waving from it. It wasn’t a model. There was no string dangling it in midair. The scene was framed by the Embergs’ kitchen window, which was identical to ours. I had no choice but to believe.

My friends in the neighborhood lost faith in Santa, but I continued to hold firm for another year or two. Sometimes I would tell them about my Dad’s photograph, but usually not. Some secrets are better kept to one’s self. None of us knew about double-exposure photography. And I never faulted my father for extending my childhood.

After all, he only provided the evidence. My belief in that evidence was mine. I had my first paper route around then. Daily newspapers struck me as similarly miraculous, with the magic happening mostly while everybody slept.

Case in point: A small plane once crashed into a house just a few blocks from our house. I rode my bike to see it. Somehow, photographs of that plane and the house were in the newspapers I delivered the next morning. How could that be possible?

Santa eventually faded, but newspapers became a lifelong obsession. For years after college, I delivered all the newspapers in Chicago’s second tallest skyscraper. I loved having most of my responsibilities completed before breakfast. It always felt like another one of those secrets best kept to one’s self.

Later I built a business, offering Yale professors a full array of newspaper options, delivered to their doorsteps before their day began. I reveled in being the last hands to touch what I never stopped believing was a modern miracle.

We delivered the word-length equivalent of a novel every morning, comprised almost exclusively from what happened the day before. I insisted my drivers understand their outsized importance. They must not miss any subscribers — make a list, check  it twice. That affirmation started each customers’ day. Flying sleighs couldn’t have delivered the news any faster, literally before the ink had dried.

I stopped participating in this modern miracle only a few years ago, but I kept having my newspapers delivered. I’d open my door and there was today’s gift, waiting to be unwrapped.

My newspaper now arrives electronically. I’m sure there are still human hands involved, but not ones I recognize. I miss hearing a thud on my doorstep, waking me with the assurance that I haven’t been forgotten.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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What Caused the Wildfire?

January 8th, 2021 by dk
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Jackson County hired a consulting firm to study how agencies prepared for and responded to the Almeda Fire in southern Oregon. No similar outside analysis of the Holiday Farm Fire has been announced. It’s time to hire outsiders to examine how the fire began, but also how the wildfire began. They are not the same thing.

Gale-force winds and drought conditions were two factors, but there may have been a third. The fire probably began with sparks from a downed power line, but that doesn’t explain how the fire got out of control and became a wildfire.

What follows may get uncomfortable, especially if you had direct experience with the tragedies of that night. Consider having somebody else read it first and summarize it for you.

A local video editor coupled images from that night with the emergency response scanner feed archived by Broadcastify. Her YouTube videos are heartrending, but they may help us begin to understand what happened.

The scanner chatter begins around 9:00 pm, just minutes after the fire was first reported. At 9:47, responders were still waiting for Lane Electric’s response. A bulldozer and Oregon Department of Forestry resources were blocked behind wires across the road.

Responders asked again at 10:24 pm if somebody could confirm which downed electrical wires were hot and which were not. The dispatcher responded at 10:36 that Bonneville Power is “unaware of those lines, so they are likely not shut down.”

An EWEB crew at 10:52 pm requested “to have the fire engaged at the initial start point, so they can get the lines out.” The firefighter command response was telling: “We are not going to engage active lines.” Two minutes later, Bonneville de-energized lines at Holden Creek Road.

Two hours were lost because crews could not be sure which wires were hot. That delay may have turned this fire into a wildfire. By the time those initial downed wires were de-energized, evacuation of downtown Blue River was already underway.

Whose responsibility was it to monitor and de-energize electrical lines in the case of an emergency that evening? If holiday staffing put replacements in that chain of command, were they properly trained and positioned? Were pre-emptive shutdowns considered properly ahead of the storm?

Is it possible the conflagration had three intersecting causes, not two? Would the fire not have become a wildfire if it hadn’t been a holiday weekend?

I ask these questions, understanding they are difficult ones and that the available information is incomplete. If an employee failed to do their job that Monday night, it would be bad for their career. If they hadn’t been properly trained, a supervisor may get punished. If back-up personnel forgot to keep their phones charged after family BBQs, that’s a shame. Those are real people, but they’re not the only ones.

I’d rather somebody lose their job or miss a promotion than have hundreds of people remain unsure about whether it will ever be safe to return to the McKenzie River Valley and the life they loved there.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com. YouTube link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaRGZOpSc_w

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Why Were There 18 Calls?

January 7th, 2021 by dk
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I read all about President Trump’s hourlong weekend phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. I listened to portions of the call, which had the tone and cadence of a condo developer trying to close a sale: “What’s it going to take to get you into that corner unit, enjoying that incredible view?”

I woke the next morning, haunted by a number: 18.

No, there wasn’t an 18-minute gap in this call, as there had been in one of the famously incriminating Nixon tapes. The estate of Rose Mary Woods can rest easy. Records show 18 phone calls placed last weekend from the White House to Raffensperger’s office. Eighteen!

Georgia officials claim they refused the calls because they suspected they were prank calls. I’ve received a call or two directly from the White House, so I can tell you the administration’s switchboard circumvents or confuses the Caller ID system.

Raffensberger’s explanation is not entirely unbelievable on the receiving end. It doesn’t begin to explain the actions of the sender. If you or I called somebody and they didn’t pick up, would we try 17 more times? I don’t think so.

It’s normal for there to be a preliminary call or two to arrange a high-level exchange like this one, settling on a time and a list of participants. But that still leaves more than a dozen unexplained attempts.

They paint a picture of the president or his underlings hitting redial like teenagers trying to score free concert tickets from a radio promotion. Or an Oregon resident trying valiantly to reach the state’s unemployment office. Or a jilted lover begging for just one more chance.

It would be pitiful if it didn’t involve the President of the United States. Add that detail to the equation and it’s downright frightening.

Is Trump in the state of mind where it makes sense to sit in the Oval Office on a Saturday, obsessively hitting redial, hoping a Republican elected official will take his call? Does he want to sell that corner condo so badly that he’d engage in telephonic begging? Did Raffensberger exhale before picking up, determined to tell the caller one more time in no uncertain terms that it’s over?

The call itself was nothing special, except for the fact that we no longer consider plaintive ramblings from the president as “special.” Tangent split off from tangent, never quite completing any single thought. A sadistic composition teacher would have her students diagram those sentences.

In a strange twist of meta-injustice, Trump’s incoherence may be his best legal defense. Fraud and conspiracy laws require prosecutors to demonstrate willful intent — mens rea, for legal nerds. If Trump actually believes there was fraud, his attempt to correct it might not be unlawful.

As Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote for The New Yorker, “Trump’s troubling mental state and habitual mendacity may well have coalesced and crescendoed to erode any discernible boundary between falsehood and delusion.”

You can never completely break up with a determined stalker. Raffensberger’s dilemma last weekend may be America’s fate for years to come.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Looking Back on 2020

January 2nd, 2021 by dk
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History puts things in perspective. Nothing was as good or as bad as it seemed at the time. With the benefit of time, we can look back on the year 2020 for its contributions. Those who survived it witnessed changes no one would have predicted.

To cite just a few examples, a new mode of communication was devised in 2020, giving people faster and easier communication than ever before. Religious leaders and craftspeople expressed their resolve in ways unmatched for millennia. A new sense of hope took hold in the Middle East.

Human societies around the globe recognized that the current era was nearing its end, though nobody knew exactly what might replace it. A slow-moving war between two dynasties was at roughly its midpoint, creating uncertainty for many but creativity for a few. All in all,  it was a good time to be alive — considering the alternative.

Historians will argue about which of these things took place during the calendar year of 2020, because that’s what historians do. It’s always a challenge to know exactly when something happened. It’s even harder to know when something began. History is not unlike a simmering marital spat. There’s always an antecedent that contributed to the present.

Did the Bronze Age end in 2020? No, not exactly. It hung on for almost another millennium, but the downward slope had begun by then. The Twin Dynasty Wars continued for another decade or two, but Egypt’s Middle Kingdom, which some consider the apex of Egyptian hegemony, came in its place.

We know some of this because of a new-fangled use for a material that always had been around. It’s only the new use that made it into a new medium. Papyrus was so much easier to write on, and it packed much more easily than stone tablets. Word had always gotten around, but now it could get around faster.

Papyrus probably didn’t speed Abraham’s effort to make peace with a singular God around this time (or maybe quite a bit later — those historians!) But papyrus almost certainly helped the legend of Abraham’s effort grow faster and wider.

It was during this general time period — maybe even in the year 2020 — that the first libraries appeared in Egypt. Babylon was writing creation myths and domesticating chickens. The bow and arrow was being perfected for warfare. Potter’s wheels and kilns were being used in Mesopotamia. China calculated annual solstices and equinoxes.

And there was Seahenge. You can look it up.

Locals thought nothing of the 55 split oak trunks submerged in eastern England. It was only “discovered” when amateur archeologist John Lorimer and his brother-in-law found a Bronze Age axe head in the Norfolk County silt in 1998. They called a friend with a metal detector. Together, they found 50 Bronze Era axe heads. Experts debate the ceremonial purpose of the trunks’ arrangement. Local wags coined the name “Seahenge,” hoping to drum up tourism.

Lesson: Notable accomplishments we’ve witnessed this year may be discovered by a future hobbyist with a metal detector, but it could take 4000 years.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Raise Your Fist to 2020

January 1st, 2021 by dk
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To anyone who heard “Happy New Year” from me 12 months ago, I apologize for getting your hopes up. We should have seen at least some of its dismality coming. A presidential election year began with an impeachment trial. We knew it could get worse from January’s lowlight. We just didn’t know how much worse.

Even if we had known, what could we have done about it? The year was like a 366-day roller coaster ride with a wobbly front wheel that looks like it could fall off any minute. Stopping at the top of a scaffolded peak would make no sense. It would make even less sense to slow the coaster before one of its harrowing loop-de-loops.

Those moments of being upside down and helpless, hoping only for continued momentum may summarize the year. Unemployed workers hoped for rent or mortgage forgiveness. Landlords hoped for relief from the state. States begged Congress to help. Senators responded by confirming judges and bickering at cameras.

And the voters didn’t punish them. Because everything has to keep moving or it all falls apart.

We had no choice but to live through it, grateful only to be one of those who did. More than one out of every thousand Americans died from COVID-19 in 2020. Imagine a full house at Matthew Knight Arena cheering a basketball game. Then all ten players on the court and both referees die, and the announcer doesn’t sound too good. That was 2020.

Not that any of us can remember what it was like to cheer at the Matt. Or do they call it MKA? I can’t remember, because now they only call it “empty.” We’re stuck at home instead, watching TV and gaining weight. We’d like to be one of those cardboard cutouts they’ve put into seats, if only to regain good posture and a slender profile.

Gyms and yoga centers have been closed, not that it was any fun exercising behind a mask with hand-sanitizer dripping from the ceiling sprinkler systems. So instead we walked — around the block, to visit a neighbor who can’t invite us in, or past favorite stores that have closed.

The only outdoor activity that wasn’t expressly limited in 2020 was protest marches. This became the year when we could raise our fists but not see our toes. And now it’s too cold to stand outside and listen to fiery speeches. Lighting things on actual fire was frowned upon. Tell that to Mother Nature.

Oregon endured several wildfires followed by freakish ash-storms, proving that not every 2020 conflagration was metaphorical. Losing a home in a 2020 disaster has given me new sympathy for children with late December birthdays. Others can’t feel much for you — they’re too busy feeling something similar for themselves.

Is anything better than it was a year ago? I learned cilantro and parsley will keep longer propped into a Tom Collins glass like a bud vase. And I have new shoes that feel to all the world like slippers. I will step into the new year with one of the only comforts I’ll remember from homebound 2020. I’ll show them to you sometime in 2021. Please tell my toes hello for me.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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How Trump Ends His Show

December 19th, 2020 by dk
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Will President Donald Trump try to fire thousands of civil servants before he leaves the White House on Jan. 20, 2021? The answer is yes. I’m confident that this is his plan, not because I have secret sources or deep political insight. Instead, I’m drawing on my limited experience as a screenwriter.

Trump found his calling when he became executive producer for a reality TV show. He has run his administration the same way he ran his “Apprentice” franchise. He chose cabinet members and key advisors based on their TV appearances, bragging about those who came “straight out of central casting.”

Trump monitors the ratings constantly. He types incendiary tweets whenever the news cycle is taking an unfavorable turn, reclaiming his control of the story. He has used rallies as ersatz focus groups, testing new material. The show stars him, but includes all of us. The script is carefully crafted, even though it’s played out in daily headlines.

The show is now reaching its conclusion. And nothing satisfies an audience more than a symmetrical story arc. Endings only exist to resolve conflicts that appeared at the beginning.

Don’t worry. I won’t ask  you to go back to William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe. I ask only that you remember how this drama began four years ago.

On January 4, 2017, Republicans took complete control of the federal government for the first time in a decade. Their literal first act was to reinstate an 1876 procedural rule (abandoned in 1983) that allows lawmakers to cut the annual salary of individual federal workers to $1. The so-called Holman Rule gave members of Congress the ability to amend appropriations bills, targeting specific government employees or programs.

News outlets reacted quickly. How might incoming president Donald Trump use the Holman Rule? Will he “drain the swamp?” Cripple “the deep state?” Policy wonks trembled, expecting that Trump and the Republicans would dismantle the machinery that makes government work.

Fortunately for civil servants across the government, President Trump entered the White House and immediately became distracted with other things. Republicans attempted to use the Holman Rule only twice, and without success. When Democrats regained control of the House in 2019, they rescinded the Holman Rule again.

Any dramaturg will tell you that the most direct way to have something accomplished on stage is never the most interesting. Republicans lost access to the Holman Rule midway through this administration, but not the desire it was designed to fulfill.

As this production wraps up its final season, the story-crafters found a new way to accomplish the old goal. In place of the Holman Rule, the White House issued an executive order, creating a new employee category within the civil service. Schedule F employees in policy roles across the government would be stripped of job protections.

The executive order was signed on Oct. 21, two weeks before the presidential election. Federal agencies were given 90 days to reclassify its positions and employees. That deadline is Jan. 19, 2021, one day before the presidential inauguration.

This looks like a scripted climax to me. Just watch.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Quickie Impeachment Benefits All

December 18th, 2020 by dk
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Electors have voted and certification is complete. The beginning of the Biden-Harris era is in place. Now the nation’s leaders should settle the ending of the Trump-Pence era. Nothing would tidy things up better than a quickie impeachment and conviction. Everyone would benefit — Biden, Trump, Republicans, and the American people.

With Biden’s inauguration only a month away, you might not think an impeachment is necessary or even possible. No impeachment has happened this quickly before. The same was said for a Supreme Court appointment coming just weeks before a presidential election. This Congress can act fast when it’s in their best interest. This is.

The case to be made against President Trump must be simple and straightforward. It must be completed before Jan. 20, 2021. Fortunately House prosecutors needn’t choose between the many high crimes this president may have committed. The quicker case is his blatant misdemeanors of the past six weeks.

An early draft of the U.S. Constitution provided that the president could be impeached for “treason or bribery or maladministration.” George Mason and James Madison proposed substituting “other high crimes and misdemeanors” instead of “maladministration.” The framers’ intent and meaning is clear for Republican originalists to study.

Misdemeanor, in this context, was understood to mean a failure of duty — not showing up for the job.

Since Election Day, Trump has made no pretense of running the federal government. He has been publicly devoted to overturning election results, live-tweeting his favorite news shows, sulking and playing golf.

The nation cannot afford to have a president — even a lame duck one — indulging in this misbehavior — this misdemeanor. Congress must make sure it never happens again. The House can make haste to show the need and the relevance of this quickie impeachment. Then it goes to the Senate. Why would 67 Senators vote to convict? Here is where it gets interesting.

Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution includes these consequences of an impeachment conviction: “removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States.” Senators could permanently disqualify Trump from holding federal office again, clearing the path to 2024.

It’s been said that every U.S. Senator sees a future president in the mirror. How many Republican leaders would rather not have Trump dominate the next presidential election cycle? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would benefit most from a sidelined Trump. He would instantly become the GOP’s undisputed leader.

Trump himself could benefit from his own impeachment conviction. Legal scholars don’t all agree, but President Pence probably could pardon his former boss for any federal offenses not addressed by the impeachment. His reasoning would be identical to Gerald Ford pardoning Nixon.

How could this be good for incoming president Joe Biden and the American people? We turn the page. It cauterizes the wound. Mercy may not seem in order, but it is. We can forgive ourselves for giving the nation’s highest office to a petulant man-child. A quickie impeachment, conviction and pardon would allow us to forgive — and not forget.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Modern Conveniences are Killing Us

December 18th, 2020 by dk
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After decades of study, scientists in Washington state believe they know what’s been killing Coho salmon. It’s us. Chemicals embedded in manufactured rubber are killing salmon quickly, but they may also be hurting our children slowly.

Coho salmon attract researchers because they are harbingers. They provide early indicators of general environmental conditions. Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, salmon feel deleterious effects from toxicity before others. They give us an early warning signal.

Those early signals can be delayed by complexities. In this current discovery, it wasn’t even one of the thousands of elements present that harmed the fish. It was a new element produced when two other elements interacted.

An antioxidant used in tire rubber, 6PPD, reacts with ozone to form 6PPD-quinone. Salmon ingest the resultant chemical via microplastics produced by abrasion — where the rubber meets the road. The same chemical  is used in bicycle tires and latex paint, so we’re all contributing to the demise.

Thousands of chemicals are used to manufacture modern tires. Many are never revealed to scientists, regulators, or the public. They are protected as “trade secrets.” We cannot assess what dangers they present until (in this case) scientists used liquid chromatography mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance to analyze each individual compound present. (Don’t try this at home.)

Harbingers don’t ask that you be concerned about them. They are telling us to watch out for ourselves, and we’re not doing that. Automobile tires cannot be composted or burned, so we’ve gotten creative recycling them. This may be making things worse.

Used tire rubber is put through a cracker mill, producing crumb rubber — tiny pellets of rubber, still carrying those thousands of unknown chemicals. Crumb rubber is then used to manufacture artificial turf and playground surface cover.

A 2015 report by Yale scientists analyzed 14 different samples used for school athletic fields and playgrounds.  They detected 96 chemicals, most of which have never been carefully studied.

The National Center for Health Research has identified lead, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and other chemicals that harm human health. Ingesting these chemicals is not advised. Unfortunately, they can get into a child’s bloodstream in other ways.

The steam from a playground surface on a sunny day can be inhaled. Any scrape or skin burn invites exposure. Simply rolling on the surface can allow seepage into the skin’s pores.

Phthalates are banned from children’s toys because they may cause obesity, early puberty, attention problems, and cancer. The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises parents that children “should avoid mouth contact with the surfacing materials, avoid eating and drinking on them, limit play on hot days and wash hands and toys.” (In other words, when it comes to getting exercise, please do try this at home.)

Our children should learn a new playground taunt. “I’m synthetically manufactured rubber and you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me, and reaches you through dermal contact, ingestion, or inhalation, conveying polyaromatic hydrocarbons, phthalates, and benzothiazole. So there!”

Whose useful life do we want to extend? Our children, our salmon, or our tires?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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Gap Year for All

December 17th, 2020 by dk
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The studies are piling up. Too many students are not succeeding with remote learning. To make matters worse, it’s the already disadvantaged who are losing the most ground. 

It’s too late to fix the systems we rely on to prepare our children for society. Instead, we should declare this a universal “gap year” and promise every student an additional year of public education.

If we don’t do something like this, teachers for the next decade will need to know how their students handled the Coronavirus Coda. To paint with a broad brush, students from stable households will be effectively one year ahead of students who didn’t have the same advantages.

Wouldn’t it be better to simply acknowledge the disparity and give everyone a chance to catch up? I can imagine giving children and families five options.

Those who were in Third Grade when the pandemic began last spring will be placed into Fourth Grade next fall, giving them two years to learn the material usually covered in one. Since most of their peers will also be repeating the grade, there will be no social stigma from being “held back.”

For the students who have been conscientious with their remote learning assignments, repeating the material for a second year might risk boredom or frustration. Educators can devise enrichment curricula, where advanced students can delve deeper. Leadership skills can be learned by assisting classmates who have not yet mastered the material.

For households where the parents can work remotely, this “gap year” would afford families a rare opportunity for a long trip or to settle in for a few months near grandparents or cousins. We took our boys out of school for four months in 1990. I’m not sure any of us have had any experience since that proved more formative.

Not everyone can or should travel, at least until the vaccine becomes widely available. But there will be multiplying opportunities for young people to explore service opportunities if there’s a nationwide acknowledgement that the previous academic year has been lost. It’s never too early for child to discover their passions.

Only those who are ambitious and industrious would stick to the “old” academic schedule, and only after showing they have mastered the material. Accelerated students with aptitude and parental support have always been allowed to skip a grade. This would be no different.

If the idea catches on, the same lessons could be applied to adults. Enlightened bosses might suspend performance reviews or tailor the company’s expectations to an employee’s domestic situation. A parent who isn’t worried about “losing ground” to colleagues might spend more time with their bored teenage child.

In the best world I can imagine, a yearlong “pause” would also be available from banks, mortgage companies, and landlords. The world essentially stopped spinning for many people last March. We’re better off admitting it than asking those who fell behind to catch up on their own.

In the ancient world, it was called a Year of Jubilee. And it was celebrated. It’s not too late to feel good about 2020, believe it or not.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.

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